A New Push for Conservative Reform in California

A November ballot initiative in California is directed at reforming the state’s troubled criminal justice system. The California Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, would require that certain non-violent offenders—petty thieves, recipients of stolen property, those who write “hot” checks of less than $950, and low-level drug possession offenders—receive misdemeanor, rather than felony, sentences. The initiative would be made retroactive so that offenders in these categories who are currently serving felony sentences could be re-sentenced at the discretion of the court. Offenders with certain previous violent or sex offenses would be excluded and remain subject to felony sentencing.

State analysts project that the initiative could result in savings in the low hundreds of millions annually. These savings, in turn, would be redirected towards improved drug treatment, mental health services, and victims’ services. The Heritage Foundation discussed the ballot initiative here. Right On Crime signatory, B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., is a prominent advocate for the initiative, and he makes his case for the Act here.

Enhancing Public Safety & Right-Sizing Florida’s Criminal Justice System

Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime asking the right questions:

Which criminal laws are overlapping, obsolete, overbroad or vague, or lacking a mens rea provision?

What percent of offenders in community corrections and prison are paying the restitution they owe?

Which treatment, education, and work programs most reduce re-offending for each type of offender?

How many low-risk offenders are going to prison?

How many probationers and parolees are revoked for rule violations who could be safely supervised and treated given sufficient resources?

Click here to view the Powerpoint on improving Florida’s Criminal Justice System

ROC signatories in The Wall Street Journal: “An Opening for Bipartisanship on Prison Reform”

ROC signatories Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan co-authored an article for The Wall Street Journal in which they call on Congress to reform the federal prison system. The op-ed, titled “An Opening for Bipartisanship on Prison Reform,” states that “half of all federal inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses, not violent crimes,” and recommends that the government look to ‘right on crime’ states for sensible and proven reforms.

Click here to read the op-ed by Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan.

ROC signatory Mike Thompson: “States’ Improvements”

ROC signatory and President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy Mike Thompson authored the following letter to the editor of the Virginian Pilot:

Prison is unquestionably the proper place for violent and repeat offenders, and long sentences for such dangerous felons will always be worth their hefty cost.But as Ken Cuccinelli and Deborah Daniels correctly argued in ‘Use prison time more effectively, humanely’ (column, June 24), many lower-level offenders can be effectively sanctioned in other ways without compromising public safety.

Using research to guide their efforts, a growing list of states Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota among them have reformed their correctional and sentencing systems to expand the use of prison alternatives. Such reforms adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support are not only saving states money but also reducing recidivism. These states hold nonviolent criminals accountable and keep communities safe.

Those who question such a strategy should take note of this compelling fact, reported recently by the Pew Charitable Trusts: States that have cut their imprisonment rates have experienced greater crime decreases than those that increased incarceration.

It’s hard to quarrel with evidence like that. Virginia’s legislators should take note.

More prisons not the answer

Hawke’s Bay Today released an article comparing the prison systems of New Zealand and the United States. Some observations include:

“New Zealand’s imprisonment rate is seventh highest in the OECD, just behind Mexico. We imprison 155 people per 100,000 population, while three quarters of OECD countries sit at 140 per 100,000, according to Statistics New Zealand. The United States’ rate is highest, at 701 per 100,000, and Iceland’s rate is lowest at 37 per 100,000.”

Right on Crime is also mentioned as having a lasting impact on prison numbers across the nation. As Kim Workman, the founder of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, stated:

“As a result of a movement started by prominent US conservatives called ‘Right on Crime’, about 19 states have reduced prison numbers over the past two to three years.”

Click here to read this article

Right on Crime: A Return to First Principles for American Conservatives

ROC Policy Director Marc Levin and ROC Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy co-authored the report “Right on Crime: A Return to First Principles for American Conservatives” for Texas Review of Law & Politics. Click here to view the report.

Vikrant Reddy on Florida criminal justice policy

ROC Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy discusses Florida’s 85% mandatory minimum sentence requirement with Florida’s WFLA 970.

“Time behind bars may be part of what contributes to public safety, but it’s not all of it. There are other factors involved; it’s very complicated.”

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ROC signatory Kevin Kane talks to NPR

Signatory to the Right on Crime statement of principles and President of the Pelican Institute Kevin Kane talks to NPR about Louisiana’s criminal justice system.

“It is a growing consensus on the right that this is the direction we want to be going. Most people will point to, ‘Well, it’s saving money, and that’s all conservatives care about.’ But I think it goes beyond that.”

Click here to read more.

John Malcom’s “The Case For the Smarter Sentencing Act”

John Malcom, Director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow at the The Heritage Foundation, authors “The Case For the Smarter Sentencing Act” for the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

Click here to view the article.

J.C. Watts: Oklahoma must think outside the cell

J.C. Watts, Right on Crime signatory, chairman of the J.C. Watts Companies, and former representative of Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, authored an article for Tulsa World on why the Sooner state’s criminal justice system is ripe for reform.

“As Oklahoma considers reopening prisons to accommodate a burgeoning inmate population, the time is ripe for state leaders to apply their principles of limited government and personal responsibility to criminal justice reform.” Click here to read more.